A Study in Faith

I am not a serious person. If you ask any of my friends, they would tell you that most of what comes out of my mouth are quotes from musicals and bad puns. Sure, I have opinions on subjects like politics and the education system (just to name a few) that are more serious than others, but generally I find that easier to listen to and add a comment if something said is just too  against my own moral code. The same can be said for religion— something that I fight about constantly with my family members when it’s brought up as a reason for a political belief. I will say it outright: I do not believe that religion should be involved in politics, and in addition to (or maybe because of) the fights rendered from those discussions, I have pointedly avoided the idea altogether.

Then, two of my dogs died in the span of a month, and everything I knew firmly about myself changed, for better or for worse.

There’s something uniquely horrifying about watching your sweet 15-year-old basset hound collapse in front of you in your home as his body shut down completely; whether it was from old age or another medical problem is still unknown, since he was a sickly boy in his last few months. There’s also something simply devastating about learning your 8-year-old basset hound was diagnosed with lymphoma and watching her slowly decay until you have to put her down three weeks later. These are two things I honestly hadn’t expected to deal with over the course of winter break, and as I had defined myself as agnostic for nearly eight years at that point, I was surprised when I found myself praying to God to watch over my pups while and after they passed. I had never prayed on my own before that point, only with family at services like weddings and funerals.

Here’s the tricky part: there’s no organized religion that I know of that I’d be comfortable being part of. I’m too selfish of a person to convert to Judaism or Islam, judging by the little that I know and have found about their religion. I agree with Buddhism for the most part, but there’s something about it that doesn’t entirely click with me—something I’m still trying to figure out for myself. I was raised Roman Catholic, but that obviously didn’t end well for me if I’d stopped considering myself Catholic in the first place, and Christianity as a whole is just another form of that. From what I grew up knowing and what I’ve researched, organized religion just isn’t right for me, yet I so desperately want to believe in something, to have that sort of solid faith that I can cling to in my worst moments, that I’m almost willing to do anything to have that support system.

Despite all of that, I know for certain what I do believe: I believe in humanity. No one is inherently bad, though everyone is selfish to some degree. In times of crisis, that belief I hold grows as I see complete strangers go out of their way to help one another survive and thrive, to make sure one another lives to see another day and tell each other that everything is okay. Call me naive, but being kind and striving to help someone is what makes me thrive as a person. Kindness isn’t linked to one religion, and it doesn’t require a certain amount of prayers a day, or to give up a certain food, or to attend mass or be condemned to Hell. This solid belief hasn’t called me a heathen for not wanting to go to mass, and it hasn’t made my mother feel like a bad parent because she didn’t bring her children to church every Sunday. It allows me to look at everyone in the world, from the good to the bad to the ugly, and accept that this is life. By doing my small part to make someone’s day a little better, I’m provided that foundation I’m looking for, at least for a little bit.

Maybe I’ll never find an organized religion that allows me to be myself. Maybe I’ll find one someday and finally feel content with myself. Until then, humanity is my faith, and I’ll cling to that until my dying breath.